I left my heart in Cadaques.

Trip Start Jul 02, 2013
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Monday, September 16, 2013

A little tale of why we had a holiday from our holiday here. 

Cadaques - 

We first discovered Cadaques in the middle of being buried in the toil of London life desperate for some sun and freedom. Tracey had googled "Quiet Spanish town with no British". Despite my impressions, we don't have anything against the British, we are just proudly Aussie and don’t want a rowdy boozy holiday with them, like the TV show Benadorm. The pictures looked amazing and being the home of Salvador Dali’s hideaway, we locked it in.

The town is nestled behind some small mountains covered in olive trees and scattered around three glass-like bays, joined by a single road running along the water. It is a small lego-land of white boxes with orange roofs separated only by the web of cobblestone walkways. High in the landscape is an old but functioning church, and down in the centre square is a tall grand 'Casino’ building which the councillors of yesterday commissioned to portray the town’s prosperity. The town got that way by exporting olives, olive oil and anchovies (still their pride) but over the difficult years instead became a hub for the wealthy eccentric holidayers fuelled on by Salvador Dali’s presence. This tone is sensed still today, with artists and creative’s the foundation of the Cadaques fabric. 

Our first incredible experience of Cadaques was the night of the euro cup soccer final which involved Spain. We avoided the main sports bar and headed up to a cosy local bar, which turned out to be extra cosy since every local was in it. We had a random older man sit and attempt a conversation knowing zero English. It was Pedro. Pedro is a Cadaques celebrity of sorts. He has been here thirty-five years, and is the only skilled stone-wall maker in the area, being responsible for much of the exterior stone décor of Cadaques. He lives in a shanty caravan and just manages by growing his own produce, making stone walls and selling small ornamental tree’s twirled from copper wire.

From that moment we spent every day relaxing by the water and every evening with Pedro. He introduced us to many of the locals, taking us to Ramon Mascardo’s massive private studio, where it is customary to play domino’s, talk Spanish politics and drink a lot of beer. Another was Maricio who the next day took us kayaking around the islands. We clapped and danced to the locals having a talented instrumental jam, we sat at the local bars like one of them. But the best times were when the three of us wandered along the water telling stories and discovering each others lives via sign-language and charades, and Pedro had some incredible and interesting ones. (From our interpretation anyway! - maybe he didn’t work in the original anchovy factory, but knew how to open a tin?). This sixty year old gentle, genuine man had a life of being a lone nomad, but Cadaques, and now us, were his friends and family.  He had shown us the history and current vibrant underground of Cadaques that tourists don’t get to experience.

When it came time for us to leave, he handed us a punnet of home grown strawberries to eat on the bus. We left with quivering lips and vowed to come back. We were back within two months.

So it was only fitting that Cadaques should be a destination on this adventure. The day that we left the campsite with the hungry wild animals, rode through the few towns on the way, and came over the hills to see Cadaques in view, I felt a wave of familiar happiness like I had just come home to my real bed after months away.

We had arrived a day early for our accommodation booking and opted for the tiny cheap room in a hotel. The maid escorted us past the row of large doors leading to balconied rooms to a half-size door, and room to match, tucked in the corner under the stairs. We were the Cinderella’s of Cadaques. That evening we excitedly roamed the memorable town, one eye looking out for Perdo, but went back to our room without having seen our prince. The next day we checked into our Villa and for us it was Christmas.. A toilet, a kitchen with fridge, a real bed, a real shower… and an abundance of electricity! That night Craig and Tertia joined us and we quickly settled into the Cadaques routine of grazing food, drinks and wandering.

For five nights we walked down to the local haunt to find Pedro with no luck. We were beginning to wonder if he was still here, or worse still alive. One morning I saw a familiar face and asked about Pedro, he then called his friend, who called Ramon who saw Pedro and we had a meeting booked for 8pm. At 8.15 he scooted towards me with his little red helmet and matching converse all-stars. Our hug was long and our smiles longer. He had received our letters during the year and when he saw Trace he just gently patted her hair like a compassionate concerned father, their hug lasting far longer. The next morning we woke to a bag of his tomatoes, a bouquet of handpicked flowers and a jar of his home made olive oil sitting on the doorstep.

Having our friends here gave us the opportunity to proudly show others ‘our’ town. They got the vibe instantly and slotted right into the good life. There is not much else to do here except enjoy the sun and water, food and drinks, shops and galleries. We plodded from café to café, bar to bar, nibbling our way through the town. We shopped at the local market making a feast out of our meals on the villa balcony. We had arrived in time for the weeklong Catalan fiesta, which saw the town unveil their flags everywhere, an influx of people, a stage and some late night music and dancing. It was a week of collective positive energy.

Though they may not realise the extent, Craig and Tertia have been a really important part of our journey (not this literal one, the other life one). They are our best friends who have proven loyal, supportive, generous and thoughtful at exactly the right moment we have needed it. We have had hilarious times and Cadaques, in a way, symbolically represented the end of an era for us. From here, they return to London to take life more seriously in hope of a family, and we hit the road towards going home and growing up. Our goodbye was mitigated slightly by the fact some more friends, Liz and Tan from Australia, arrived for the weekend. Craig and Tertia were to get the early bird bus out of town, so the night before we pretended like we were just saying goodnight as always, but couldn’t help adding some extended hugs and well wishes, laughing at the prospect of it being an ordinary goodnight ritual.

Liz and Tan were great company and it meant we were able to repeat our tour and restaurant list. We had some funny, interesting and inspiring conversations over many drinks and tapas’, staying up well past bedtime along with the town. When they left too, Tracey and I had an eerie silence that summed up the way we felt. Soon it was back to just us and the road home…. To grow up. Like us, Cadaques is filled with humble possibilities, and has an undercurrent of a collective battle against growing up and developing like the tourist towns surrounding it. Its charm is that it has stayed true to itself. It has managed to keep its independence and character and still functions for the crowds, I hope it keeps this balance as it grows up.  
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Comments

Tersh on

Emma and Tracey - You guys are so wonderful! You are very special to us too and we were very lucky to spend time with you at beautiful Cadaques!!! xxx

PS. Keep up the amazing writing!
PPS. Thinking of how much you'll love riding the roads in Tuscany on Max and Daisy-Su. Shame you're not making it to Italy

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